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Following on from our chapter two questionnaire, we set out some practical steps that businesses can take to improve their biodiversity-related performance.

Taking proactive steps will help businesses prepare for upcoming regulatory, policy and market changes and evolving public and government attitudes to the role of business in the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity. This requires businesses to have regard to the ways in which their activities depend on nature as a key risk including to financial performance, and also to have regard to the impacts of their business on natural systems and the ways this may impact on biodiversity. 

Important initial steps include:

  1. Collecting data on operations and assessing biodiversity-related impacts, dependencies, risks and opportunities, including identifying strengths and weaknesses in existing systems and seeking advice from specialist experts on developing and addressing these areas.
  2. Training people in the business on biodiversity matters and engaging with relevant stakeholders and industry bodies.
  3. Setting science-based, measurable, and time-bound targets and developing integrated strategies to achieve these targets, potentially starting with a limited scope that focuses on priority activities and locations.
  4. Taking actions in line with developed strategies to achieve targets.
  5. Disclosing and reporting on biodiversity-related impacts, dependencies, risks and opportunities in accordance with applicable regulations.

Once these initial steps are taken, it will be critical for businesses to implement feedback loops and regularly review and update their strategies and operations to achieve their targets and improve performance.

People

The enhanced focus on biodiversity-related risks and maximising opportunities requires cultural change within a business, which starts with people. This requires a shift in mindset to environmental stewardship, where leaders are tasked with setting and implementing a business strategy that has regard to the full range of environmental dependencies and impacts of the business, and where taking action to conserve, restore and sustainably use ecosystem services is integrated into the activities of all employees. Businesses can empower their people by:

  • Training leaders to understand and manage their business' dependencies and impacts on nature, including biodiversity: This helps to establish biodiversity-related considerations as a core business consideration and allows leaders to understand the materiality of risks presented by biodiversity loss and make more informed decisions about how to operate their business in a way that manages dependencies, minimises harm to biodiversity and maximises opportunities and outcomes.
  • Communicating openly with employees about the business' interaction with biodiversity, and its goals and progress: This not only encourages employees to be more informed and engaged in a business' efforts to address biodiversity issues, but also encourages businesses to be accountable for their biodiversity impacts and commitments.
  • Providing training and resources to employees to learn more about ecosystem services and biodiversity and how the business interacts with it: This could be done by creating a biodiversity learning portal on a business' intranet, providing employees with access to courses and resources to learn about biodiversity, and supporting employees to take actions that benefit biodiversity.
  • Encouraging cross-departmental communication and collaboration on biodiversity issues: Biodiversity considerations are likely to bear on most areas of a business, whether directly or indirectly and in an interconnected manner. Adopting a whole-of-business approach breaks down silos between teams so that all employees (not just sustainability-focused teams) are aware of biodiversity issues and their importance, and can integrate biodiversity considerations into their work.
  • Developing a biodiversity whistleblowing policy: This helps to protect employees who report on activities that are harmful to biodiversity. It also sends a message that biodiversity is a priority and that the business is committed to protecting it and is accountable for its activities.

Policies

The following steps can help ensure that a business’ procedures are effective in addressing biodiversity-related risks and maximising opportunities:

  • Assess current procedures against sustainability standards and frameworks: Businesses should assess their current procedures against the standards set by the International Financial Reporting Standards' general requirements for disclosure of sustainability-related financial information (IFRS S1), the European Sustainability Reporting Standards, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) 304[1] and the recommendations of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). This can help identify any gaps in procedures and take steps to address these gaps. These standards are important as they not only set disclosure requirements for businesses to report on their sustainability performance but also provide guidance to businesses on how to understand and manage their biodiversity-related risks and opportunities. Developing an understanding of these standards now will allow businesses to stay ahead of the curve as several of the standards are set to soon become mandatory across various jurisdictions.
  • Build internal team and data collection capabilities: Businesses should build their internal capabilities to ensure that they have the resources and expertise in place to effectively collect science-based data and understand their biodiversity-related impacts and dependencies. Similarly, an effective data collection system can help businesses understand their exposure to biodiversity-related risks, and to make better decisions and implement effective mitigation strategies to address those risks.
  • Set targets to reduce or manage biodiversity dependencies and impacts: Businesses should set targets to reduce or manage their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity, supported by a strategy for achieving those targets that is integrated into governance and decision-making procedures. These targets should cover all aspects of a business' interactions with nature, including its dependencies on ecosystem services, and impacts on biodiversity. Targets should be measurable, actionable, and time-bound, and based on the best available science so that businesses can align their activities with the Earth's limits and societal sustainability goals.[2] The Science Based Targets Network's science-based targets for nature provide businesses with guidance on how to set targets that are aligned with the latest scientific evidence and a verification mechanism to track their progress toward meeting those targets.
  • Engage with stakeholders to build trust and support: By engaging with stakeholders, businesses can better understand any concerns raised about the biodiversity impacts of their activities and take more effective action to address these concerns. Communicating transparently about biodiversity impacts, the materiality of risks, and involving stakeholders in biodiversity management processes may help to build trust with stakeholders and support accountability. Businesses can also build partnerships with organisations or people in local communities with relevant expertise to share knowledge and resources, and collaborate on approaches to mitigating risks and pursuing opportunities.

Operations

A business’ impacts, dependencies, risks and opportunities are not limited to its direct operations. The whole of its operations, including upstream and downstream impacts and the lifecycle of its inputs and outputs, needs to be considered in assessing biodiversity considerations. Steps to address this include:

  • Establishing systems to collect key operational data: Data collection for biodiversity-related decision-making is likely to be challenging, with no single measure or confined aspect of nature needing to be considered, distinct from climate-related decisions, which consider greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Organisations like the TNFD are, however, developing public data utilities to help overcome this (similar to the Net-Zero Data Public Utility). Businesses should gather comprehensive data now to help define material topics and priorities and supplement this with public data once available.
  • Completing a material biodiversity dependency, impact, risk and opportunity assessment: This assessment should be science-based and include the whole of a business in its scope, including the extent to which supply chains are high-impact, high-dependency, vulnerable to risks, and open for opportunities. Comprehensive analysis, including with supporting input from experts such as environmental and other consultants, will help develop targets and strategies that are directed towards the most material risks.
  • Planning for risks: Businesses face biodiversity risks at all stages of their operations, from sourcing to production to distribution to disposal, and from a range of sources. These risks can be due to dependencies in a business' operations, such as on raw materials and locations reliant upon ecosystem services. Risks also arise due to biodiversity impacts from the use of biodiversity-rich inputs in products, such as palm oil, soybeans, fish, and timber, or from their processes, which result in pollution, waste generation, deforestation, habitat fragmentation or the overexploitation of natural resources. Biodiversity is also inherently linked with and will be impacted by climate change. It is important for businesses to have contingency plans in place, in the event that raw materials, ecosystem services or inputs become unavailable.
  • Adopting sustainable procurement practices: Businesses can mitigate these risks and maximise biodiversity-related opportunities by working with suppliers to source sustainably. This can be done by choosing suppliers with demonstrated sustainability credentials, auditing suppliers' performance, and working in partnership with suppliers to communicate expectations on managing biodiversity risks. As key players in the market, businesses can also use their purchasing power to influence better practices through specifying the commitments suppliers should make to conserve biodiversity.
  • Engaging in the circular economy: Businesses should also consider how they can contribute to or benefit from the circular economy, which aims to reduce waste and pollution by keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, and integrate its principles into their decision-making. This can be done by sourcing biodiversity-friendly raw materials, designing products that are easy to repair and recycle, extending product lifespans, using recycled materials in manufacturing, and improving waste management practices.[3]

Locations

A business' biodiversity impacts and dependencies are often location-specific, varying based on the intricacies of the local environment and the activities undertaken in it. Businesses accordingly need to undertake context-specific assessments to determine the appropriate biodiversity measures to be implemented for their locations, activities, and industries, and prioritise efforts where these present the greatest threats to biodiversity. Businesses should consider:

  • Location-based assessments: Businesses should assess their biodiversity impacts and dependencies in each location in which they operate, and even where the environment in different locations appears to have similar characteristics. Businesses should, for example, be aware of, and take steps to avoid impacts on, sensitive and high biodiversity value areas near their premises or sites or where there are greater vulnerabilities, as well as upstream and downstream of their activities, such as wetlands, forests, or endangered species habitats. Importantly, actions that are necessary or effective at one location may not be appropriate to address similar issues in other locations, and this requires a sophisticated level of analysis and review.
  • Industry-specific assessment: What constitutes an appropriate biodiversity measure to be implemented also depends on the particular industry in which a business is operating and the activities it is undertaking. For instance, the biodiversity measures that should be implemented by a mining company operating in a water-stressed region may be different from a forestry company operating in a water-stressed region.
  • Present and future environments: A further important consideration is not only whether these locations and activities present biodiversity-risks at present, but also what the future trajectory of these locations is likely to be, especially in the face of climate change.

[1] GRI 304 is a biodiversity topic-specific standard in the GRI Standards. It is designed to help organisations report on, and manage, their biodiversity-related impacts.

[2] This draws on the definition of science-based targets set by the Science Based Targets Network.

[3] See European Environment Agency, Briefing: The Benefits to Biodiversity of a Strong Circular Economy (June 2023).

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